Maple Syrup: Nature's Spring Tonic. -- Since 1918

Category: 2017: Season 100 Page 1 of 6

Season 100 Closes

The season is not over until all the cleanup is done.  Into the woods by 10:00 AM for the final cleanup tasks.  Floor washed. Tanks emptied and in the syrup building.  Gas tank disconnected and back in the syrup building.   Taped close gas burners and R/O hoses so no insects make homes in them during the off-season.  Final task is unplugging the radio and taking down the clock.  Back to the farmhouse by 1:30 PM.

A good season.  Above average corp in quantity and quality.  The R/O is such a game changer.  It makes the season so much easier with much less time cooking and less wood used.  We don’t even haul water any more.  Very happy with the investment.

Wish we started earlier.  There was a big run over February 18 & 19 that we missed because we weren’t tapped.  Likely would have put us over 100 gallons of finished syrup for the season.   It would have been a nice symmetry to have 100 gallons of syrup in season 100.

The new labels and branding is another big improvement.  Real happy with how that turned out.

Thinking of entering syrup for judging at the meeting of the North American Maple Syrup Council in Lévis, Québec in October.  Haven’t ever done that, but why not try.

Off-season improvements we’re considering:

  • replace concrete floor
  • new propane burners for finishing pan and in bottling kitchen to replace stove
  • new sap hydrometer
  • new fill spout on bottling pan to see if we can eliminate bubbles
  • replace buckets with PVC sap sack holder and plastic sap sacks
  • re-brick evaporator with firebrick after replacing metal sides
  • finishing painting building and woodshed
  • new base for the R/O water tank
  • new transfer pump

All depends on how much money we want to spend.

We return in February 2018 to start the next 100 seasons.

Warmer Hands

All the big stuff is done now.  Completed the evaporator today.  Cleaned up easily.   The nitre in the pan and carbon on the bottom don’t get as burnt on when you cook less then half the time.   Another R/O benefit.

Nice day today.  About 35 overnight.  Sunny and low 50s until late afternoon.  It made cleaning the evaporator easier on the hands.  The sun actually warmed the metal so our hands stayed warmer.

Remaining cleanup:  sweep  and wash the floor; empty the water tank; clean milk cans and stuff with paper for the off-season; put away all the supplies and tools.

Cold Hands

A little warmer today but still cloudy and windy.   Into the woods by Noon to clean pans.  Bottling and finishing pans all cleaned up.    Hands still got cold.  Water, wind, and metal are not a great combination for warm hands.

Most of the equipment and supplies are now back at the farmhouse for the off-season.  Only the flue pan of the evaporator needs cleaning yet.  And wash the floor.  Hope to finish that all tomorrow as its forecast to be a little warmer with some sun.  Hoping that helps keep the hands warmer.

4 ½ Cords Of Wood

Low 50s overnight.  A thunderstorm moved in around 5:00 AM.  We had thunder over an open woods (no leaves on the trees) which means more snow according to folklore.   Its surprisingly accurate.   Rained most of the morning.  Turned colder this afternoon with a north wind that picked up as the afternoon progressed.

Into the woods at 2:30 PM to clean the evaporator.   The cold wind bite.  We did get the front syrup pan cleaned up.    We had to return to the farmhouse because of cold hands.   Water and a cold wind don’t mix well.  Back to the farmhouse by 4:45 PM to warm up.   The rain returned too.

We also did the math on wood used this season.  Our main wood shed it 14’x15’x7 ½’.  1 cord equals 4’x4’x8′ or 128 cubic feet.  14’x15’x7 ½’ = 1575 cubic feet or 12.3 cords.  There’s and addon to the south side of 5’x10’x5′ = 250 cubic feet = 1.9 cords.   Woodshed total is 1825 cubic feet or 14.3 cords.

We didn’t use any wood from the south side addon.  From the main woodshed we used 7’x4’x7.5′ = 210 cubic feet of limb wood and two rows of larger split wood.  One row was 7’x3’x6′ = 126 cubic feet.  The second row was 7’x5.5’x6′ = 231 cubic feet.  Adding all together we get 210+126+231=567 cubic feet or 4.4 cords which we rounded to 4 1/2 cords of wood burnt for the season.  During our seasons without the R/O we would use 11-12 cords.  The woodshed was almost bare at the end of a season and especially when we had an above average crop.  Our main motivation for the R/O was to cut down on wood use.  We are accomplishing this.

85 Gallons For Season 100

After we completed bottling and totaled up all the syrup we made 85 gallons of syrup for season 100.   A good season.  Above average crop in both quantity and quality.  We made mostly medium amber with just the last batch from today as dark amber.  The quality is also a function of the R/O and being able to process sap faster.  During our years without the R/O we made mostly dark amber and then into the real dark grade B syrup.

Into the woods by 9:00 AM to start bringing in buckets and covers.  They are all in off-season storage.  Finished this afternoon after bottling.

Put the last of the syrup on the finishing pan by 11:45 AM.  It was done by 3:00 PM.  Filtered and bottled it came to 16 quarts.

Doing the math:  we collected 3595 gallons of sap; we made 85 gallons of syrup.  That gives us a ratio of  42:1.  Running through the Rule of 86 means our sap averaged 2.03 °Bx for the season.  At exactly 2.00 °Bx the ratio is 43:1.  Given the low Brix readings we had, we need to replace our sap hydrometer.  Its calibration doesn’t seem accurate.

45 overnight.  55 today.  Partly cloudy this morning but the sun appeared around 2:00 PM.

Tomorrow we start cleaning the evaporator.  That’s the last big task remaining.

Back to the farmhouse by 5:00 PM.

Everything In The Milk Can

25 overnight.  Sunny and 55 today.  Into the woods by 8:00 AM to work on cleanup.  Pulled all the remaining spouts.  Completed that by 9:00 AM.  Disconnected and drained everything on the R/O so it could dry out during the day.  Brought the R/O back to the farmhouse this evening.   Some people have  big screen TVs in their living room.  We have an R/O.

Got a tank of water.  Filled the flue pan of the evaporator with water and front pan with 2 1/2 gallons of the remaining sap to cook.  Started the evaporator at 11:00 AM.    It took 5 hours to cook those 15 gallons.  Can’t fire hard and only the front pan doesn’t evaporate at the same rate as the flue pan.  All the remaining sap is now cooked to 28 °Baume and in the milk can.  Tomorrow we finish and bottle it.  Looks like it will be around 5 gallons.  More then we anticipated.

Tomorrow we start the day by picking up the buckets and covers from the woods.  They go into the garage for off-season storage.  Then bottle and count up our crop total for the season.

Some Trees Still Running

Ice on the puddles this morning so it froze overnight.  Sunny and upper 50s today.  Some trees are still moving sap.  That’s expected.  They are not running enough to collect and we know the sugar content in the sap is weak.

Another milk can bottled today. 27 quarts.  Hoses disconnected from the R/O and the membrane is in the farmhouse for off-season storage.  Tomorrow we’ll bring the R/O to the farmhouse for the off-season too.  Pulled more spouts.  Plan to pickup buckets tomorrow.  Weather forecast to be sunny and 60s.

Progress On Cleanup

Pulled more spouts today.  Over half are out.  Emptied the evaporator of sap.  15 gallons remain to cook yet.  Tomorrow get a tank of water and fill the flue pan with water and cleaning solution while cooking the 15 gallons on the front.   Ran 200 gallon of water through the R/O as a final rinse.  Its ready to drain and disassemble for off-season storage.

Windy all day. Started cloudy but cleared by Noon.

R/O Almost Ready For Off-Season

The R/O’s had a soap wash Monday and another Tuesday.  Today did a hot water cleaning cycle.  Tomorrow rinse with 200 gallons of permeate and it should be ready for off-season storage.

Fired the evaporator for 1 ½ hours today.  Its easier to cook off sap on the evaporator so fired it up to cook through as much of the sap remaining in the evaporator as we could.  Next drain the back pan and fill with water.  Then cook off the sap while the back pan boils with cleaning solution.

Bottled another milk can of syrup.  About 30 quarts.

Cloudy all day.  About 40.

A New Look

We have a new look!  Replacing all our labels, business cards and recipe books with a consistent look across all of them.    We had an eclectic mix of fonts, colors and images on the old labels with every piece different.  We wanted to emphasis the maple syrup so went with clear labels.  We bottle most of our syrup in glass so a clear label allows the beauty of the syrup to show through.

Its taken five years to bring this vision to life.  The challenge was the image to use on the label.   Many labels have a team of horses pulling a wagon through the sugar bush.  Or have a syrup building or other images associated with old fashion syrup making.  We never had horses so that image wouldn’t work.  Didn’t want something too modern or abstract either.    We realized we had a image from the 2012 season of trees with buckets after a snow storm.  That became our inspiration.

We wanted to keep everything local.  Worked with a local graphic designer on the layout and a local printer.  Cousin Amy did the drawing of the tree and buckets based on the photo.  She’s a talented professional artist working with ceramics and finger paintings.   She helped coordinate all the pieces to bring this vision to life while I worked in the woods.

The label pays tribute to the heritage of the old label.  ‘That label dates to the 1960s.  We kept some of the fonts and kept the same phrasing and tag lines.

The view of the bottle constantly changes as the light hits the bottle from different directions and different intensities.  The maple syrup is the art and now the clear label allows it to shine.

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